The Little World Week – Part Two – Kits Is A Not A Four-Letter Word

Did you know you could once get an Airfix Spitfire or Messerschmitt 109 for 50¢ Canadian?

They might have been accurate models or not, but the undeniable fact was that they were a small plastic bag full of wonder, and at the price of 5 Fry’s chocolate bars foregone, you could have a fortnight’s plastic modelling.

The first few days were given over to unbagging, checking for parts, cutting off from the sprues, bandaging the fingers, and trying to hide the fact that you had cut yourself again.

Then came two more days of sanding the edges of the parts or dragging the Exacto knife across them to reduce the flash. Plus new bandages for the fresh cuts.

Then the trial fitting. And the gluing of the fuselages and wing halves. Then the puttying of the gaps and sanding next day. Some kits would never fit, no matter what one did ( I’m looking at you, Revell, and you know exactly where you can stick your Consolidated Tradewind flying boat kit…) and you were either going to have to develop real scratch-building skills or just accept the compromises.

All the while there was painting to be done. These were pre-airbrush days for nearly everyone and as far as kids were concerned, pre-aerosol can days as well. Indeed until 1961, pre-matte paint days. Brushes, Revell , Pactra, Testors, or Humbrol paints, and a bottle of turpentine for cleaning. Humbrol was slow drying but good coverage, Revell set fast but stunk peculiarly ( I should not like to know what was in it…). There was little colour mixing – it was just out of the tins.

The final assembly was always exciting because then the real external paint job started. It was best it reserve it until Saturday after chores were done as it meant you were not going to be pulled away by parental imperative half-way in the job. Afternoons were spent in a turpentine haze trying to chase out bubbles.

The final stage was always the decals. No Micro-sol or set in those days – just the dish of warm water and onto the wings and fuselage – and if the surfaces had rivets or panel lines that was just too bad. The best we could do was get the lettering on straight and even, and the odd silvered edge was just ignored.

And your allowance was transformed into a real airplane before your eyes. I am sorry in a way that we moved so much in those days and that eventually all the finished models were given away by my Mother to the Christmas toy drives* – I should dearly love to see how badly I did them then. They would have all the more charm as souvenirs now.

*I still have dreams where I am selecting a model to build…including ones I never owned at all. Most peculiar.


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